ETU industry conference 2022

Last week ETU members, delegates and organisers came together for the ETU industry conference to discuss issues in their sectors and ways to change things for the better. It was two solid days of sharing insights, collaborating on tactics to overcome challenges in the workplace and making long lasting connections with other unionists.

A highlight in the power sector conference was a session with Australian Energy Regulator (AER) deputy chair, Jim Cox. The ETU put the hard questions to Mr Cox about the AER, such as:

  • poor consultation with workers
  • insufficient funding and regulation to ensure proper maintenance of the failing electrical grid
  • giving companies bonuses for underspending on maintenance, when it increases safety risks for consumers and workers
  • who fact checks power company reports
  • energy companies price gouging for jobs in small rural towns.

We made it clear to the AER that proper engagement with workers is an essential first step in rectifying these issues.

In the lift industry delegates came together to discuss how to tackle safety issues in the lift industry, reviewing Australian standards related to the lift industry and workshopping issues happening within specific companies.

Lift industry comrades also thanked Keith Mackenzie for his massive contribution to the lift industry, and David Mier who ran the lift sector conference.

In the contracting sector highlights included discussing reports from all ETU branches, the Federal Labor Government’s new workplace laws, which will allow multi-employer bargaining and practical strategies that will win for members and meet challenges across the ETU’s strongest growth sector. The group also discussed safety requirements on renewable projects and long service leave schemes. 

Women of the ETU discussed the role of health and safety representatives, personal protective equipment for women, what happened at the Federal Jobs and Skills Summit, how to harness social media in campaigning, and how to build networks of women in male-dominated industries.  

In the legal sector, industrial officers shared tips and knowledge on navigating the complex world of industrial law, receiving a briefing from Tom Roberts at the ACTU on the Federal Government’s new Secure Job, Better Pay Bill 2022. They discussed topics like ‘when to appeal’, protected industrial action notices, and had a session on how to avoid common mistakes when appearing in the Fair Work Commission, led by former Deputy President of the Fair Work Commission Peter Sams AM. 

General Trades/engineering discussed protecting coverage in the rail industry and challenges in naval shipbuilding. Competency and Skills Consultant John Coburn addressed the group on reclassifications and career progressions and Pramesh Chandra and Shannon Crundwell led some lively debate. The group talked about achievements too, like how the ETU exposed shipbuilding company Austal and won back $200k for temporary migrant workers who were being paid just over $90 a day for doing skilled electrical work. Plus, how the union helped organise a shipyard in Cebu, Philippines!

Keen apprentices from all ETU industries and branches enjoyed two days of lively discussion at the conference. Led by ETU National Technical Officer Sarah Brunton, the group covered issues around trade training, e-profiling, the need for more TAFE funding, apprentice support, mental health and union building.


The ETU and Irish union Connect signed a Global Federation Agreement which will build cooperation around training, education and multinational campaigns.

The ETU and Irish union Connect signed a Global Federation Agreement which will build cooperation around training, education and multinational campaigns.

Connect General Secretary Paddy Kavanagh and his team attended the ETU National Delegates Conference and signed the agreement with the ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks.

“I’m impressed by the level of discussion among sectoral ETU delegates and the contributions from women and youth,” said Paddy.

With 40,000 members across electrical, engineering and technical trades, Connect is a strong and effective union that has achieved full employment and good conditions for members.

ETU Acting National Secretary Michael Wright said the new Agreement builds on years of cooperation between the two unions.

“We share so many challenges and have learned a lot on both sides. It’s a great relationship.”

Delegates endorse campaign for yes vote on the Voice to Parliament

ETU Delegates from every industry sector the Union represents showed their support for the Yes vote for the referendum for a Voice to Parliament, likely to be held late next year. From the Heart Deputy Campaign Directors Kara Keys and Paul Murphy spoke to the conference about how a referendum works, why this one is so important and how we can win. 

Governments have been making laws about and for First Nations Peoples without community consultation since 1788. Unions have stood up alongside First Nations Peoples against programs like the Community Development Program, which created indentured labour and stripped First Nations Peoples of their workplace rights. We have also rallied against systematic wage theft, like what was experienced by the Gurindji people who eventually stood up and went on strike to protest against their employer in the famous Wave Hill Walk-off. The Voice to Parliament is no different.

Fighting for a better world where our fellow Australians can speak up against injustices is, and always will be union business. We need to make a stand and show the country that we stand in solidarity with First Nation’s Peoples in voting yes for a Voice to Parliament.

Thank you to our generous sponsors

A huge thank you to sponsors Cbus, Protect and ada for their support of our conference, and for the important work that you do in helping working people.

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This article was publised on 1 November 2022.